Scintilla Day 2: Instructions

Prompt 2: Tell a story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual.


Step 1: Find yourself living in Toronto with your husband of a few months, working for a cool little independent bookstore, finally getting treatment for depression which will surely solve all of those problems in short order and forever (insert slightly bitter snort).

Step 2: Figure things are going pretty well and it would be a good thing to find a way to give back to the community.

Step 3: See an ad for PAL-Reading Services in the paper.

Step 4: Feel struck to the core with the conviction that this was Meant To Be in every possible way - Blind People who are Tragically Denied the Joys of the Written Word (because you don't know Braille, or there aren't enough books in Braille, or something!), LET ME BE YOUR READER!

Step 5: Go in for a short test. Be accepted with alacrity and praise despite a slight quibble over the pronunciation of the word 'eschew'.

Step 6: Take the subway to that part of town a few times a month. Enjoy being ensconced in your own tiny room with a window, a counter, a tape recorder and a book. Resist the temptation to add editorial comments or introduce yourself ("Hi, I'm Allison and I'll be your reader today").

Step 7. Marvel at the range and variety of material you're asked to read. Biology textbooks. Historical treatises. Inspirational memoirs that make it necessary to remove all traces of eye-rolling from your voice.

Step 8: Encounter issues such as: How do I read the word 'deftness' without making it apt to be mistaken for 'deafness' and yet still maintain the flow of the narrative?; Should I vary my voice to indicate when different people are speaking?; Have I really been pronouncing 'detritus' wrongly my whole life?

Step 9: Show up as usual one day and enter your little room.

Step 10: Find a volume of poetry for the first time and think that this will be interesting.

Step 11: Get set up and scan the first poem.

Step 12: Realize in short order that the book is, in fact, a volume of African-American lesbian erotic poetry.

Step 13: Check the room reflexively for hidden cameras -


Step 14: Wonder if you're being punk'd, except Punk'd doesn't actually exist yet.

Step 15: Decide that perhaps you're being silly.

Step 16: But then think, are you really? It's Toronto, for crying out loud - centre of multiculturalism and diversity and difference. And if you're not the straightest, whitest straight white girl they could have given this to, you have to be close.

Step 17: Look around more carefully for hidden cameras.

Step 18: Decide that you're probably just being silly. Who knows what kind of roster of readers they have? And hey, blind African-Canadian lesbians deserve their sexy poems as much as anyone else. And you haven't been Catholic, strictly speaking, for quite a while.

Step 19: Become involved in the work at hand.

Step 20: Do a pretty damned good job, if you do say so yourself, including reading out the phrase "To the woman who makes my clit dance" without exclaiming 'okay, seriously?' afterwards.

Step 21: Turn in the book and tape recorder and give some pretty serious side-eye to the chick at the front desk on your way out. Be unable to decide whether her expression is a little TOO suspiciously deadpan.

Step 22: Spend the subway ride home alternately blushing and giggling like an idiot.

Step 23: Resolve to become less naive and easily embarrassed.

Step 24: Take a second, many years later, to be fervently grateful that you weren't doing this kind of volunteer work when Fifty Shades of Grey was published.


Nicole said…
This was hilarious! Thanks for the laugh, Allison.
StephLove said…
Steps 18 & 24 are my favorites.
Anonymous said…
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Wrath Of Mom said…
Oh. Dear. Me.

This was hysterical.
Anonymous said…
Hilarious! I can't imagine not interjecting comments when reading anything aloud and I have great trouble stifling the giggles when I find something amusing but I am trying desperately to not make one of those comments or snorts. It's pretty cool that you did sign up for it and pretty awesome that, even though some of the literature was unexpected, that you did follow through with the recordings. Thanks for sharing this experience with us! Nicely done!
Ms. G said…
25: And then use it to make people laugh their ass off.
Who knew a clit could dance? Oh my!
Amanda said…
This totally made my day.

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